Moments in History | Hektoen International

The most loathsome disease of the emperor Galerius

“His disease was occasioned by a very painful lingering disorder. His body, swelled by an intemperate course of life to an unwieldy corpulence, was covered with ulcers, and devoured by innumerable swarms of those insects who have given the name to a most loathsome disease.” – Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman […]

A colorful but tyrannical chief

Old building of the Peking Union Medical College in Beijing   The great professor of medicine with the Charles Boyer accent would make ward rounds followed by some thirty students living in constant fear of being publicly humiliated. “You” he would say “where do you come from ?” – and wherever it was he would […]

Edward Jenner and the dairymaid

Small pox has plagued mankind since time immemorial, causing huge epidemics with great loss of life and often changing the course of history. The disease could be prevented or ameliorated by variolation, the subcutaneous inoculation with fluid from smallpox lesions into non-immune individuals. Variolation had been used for centuries, even for members of royal families. […]

Healthcare for the popes

Guy de Chauliac. Bandaging the leg of Pope Clement VI at Avignon, c.1348, Ernest Board (1877–1934), Wellcome Library   Guy de Chauliac was the personal physician of three of the seven Popes forced to reside in Avignon during their so-called Babylonian captivity. Although he wrote a famous textbook on surgery, he practiced mainly as a physician, and […]

Doctor bites policeman in Chicago religious dispute

St. Volodmyr and  Olha Cathedral The episode took place in Chicago about half a century ago. At the time some 100,000 Ukrainians lived in the greater Chicago area, mostly in a near-west neighborhood referred to as the Ukrainian village. They were mostly (c.70%) Catholics of the Byzantine or Eastern rite, adhering to the old Julian […]

The King’s-Evil and sensory experience in Richard Wiseman’s Severall Chirurgicall Treatises

Adam S. Komorowski & Sang Ik Song Ireland (Spring 2017)   Charles II touching a patient for the King’s Evil (scrofula) Throughout many centuries, the monarchs of England maintained as royal prerogative the ability to heal the sick by virtue of their miraculous touch alone. William of Malmesbury (c.1090-c.1143) first described the use of the thaumaturgic […]

Physician: study thyself

Susan Hurley Victoria, Australia (Winter 2017)   In 2016 one man died and five others suffered brain damage during a drug trial in Rennes, France.1 A similar disaster occurred during the 2006 London trial of a novel monoclonal antibody: six men experienced an immediate systemic inflammatory response and became critically ill with multi-organ failure.2 These […]

A Norse and Dutch friendship

Jan Peter Verhave Netherlands Dr. Ludvig Hektoen The renowned pathologist Ludvig Hektoen maintained a vast correspondence with many people.1 The science writer Paul de Kruif was one of them. Their contacts started in 1925. Paul de Kruif was in trouble. In 1922, he had written a story on vaccines in Hearst’s International Magazine where he […]

What November may bring: the first 37 days of surgical anesthesia

A.J. Wright Birmingham, Alabama, United States (Spring 2016)     William Thomas Green Morton (August 9, 1819 – July 15, 1868) In medical history October 16 is known as “Ether Day” to commemorate dentist William Morton’s 1846 demonstration of ether inhalation for a surgical patient of Dr. John Collins Warren. The event is often described […]

Changing conceptions of the nightmare in medicine

Brian A. Sharpless United States (Spring 2016)   The nightmare, 1781 Henry Fuseli Detroit Institute of Arts In contemporary parlance the word “nightmare” conjures up images of a scary dream that leaves us shaken and afraid. This fear usually subsides when we wake and realize that we are actually safe in our own bedroom. However, […]